2014 seems to be the year where music legends make their return. Celebrated artists including Aretha Franklin, Barbra Streisand and U2 have all released new material this year. Now Marianne Faithfull has jumped on the bandwagon, following the release of her 20th studio album, Give My Love To London. There’s no denying that the English singer/actress has had a critically acclaimed and turbulent career; but for the love of the game she has returned to the music scene, proving you can still reach career strengths regardless of age.
Throughout the span of her 50 year career, Faithfull has countlessly reinvented her musical sound. With this album it seems as though she has reverted back to her rock roots; though at times, this seems uncertain. The album’s opener Give My Love To London is definitely country inspired, comprised of banjos, guitars and a dosey-do rhythm. However, Faithfull’s iconic raspy voice is unmistakable regardless of the genre. Her vocals are mature albeit a little shaky; despite this, she still manages to hold her ground. Sparrows Will Sing is a much livelier track, featuring an upbeat tempo and a piano that plays with gusto. Faithfull’s voice growls over the track, her half-spoken lyrics sounding eerily sinister. The country influence of the previous track seems to be a random one-off; gone are the banjos, replaced with pounding drums and echoey electric guitars that give off a classic, 80’s rock vibe. This follows on with True Lies, a grungy, angsty rock number with pianos and clashing drums. It’s definitely loud and crazy – but the epic accompaniment, combined with moaning backing vocals, are so overpowering that Faithfull’s croaky voice can barely be heard.
In addition to the rock pieces, Faithfull also showcases her versatility by adding a few acoustic numbers. Love More Or Less is one of these, the acoustic guitar giving off a previously unheard serenity. It’s a welcome change compared to the clangers of the other tracks. These slower tracks allow her to really show off her vocals – not in range, but in technique. She quivers in volume with Deep Water, pouring all her emotion onto what sounds like a take on a classic piano ballad – a mixture of traditional pop and musical. The same goes with Going Home, only this one is more cathedral-like and less sombre than the last. With the aid of a soaring male choir, Faithfull croons with more soul and serenity; seemingly more peaceful compared to the other edgier rock numbers.
Amidst the rich variety of genres on this album, there are a few select gems. The dramatic flair of Falling Back fits into this category, where the strings launch into a sky scraping intro fit for a cinematic, film noir score. As Faithfull begins to pour her heart out, tinkling pianos contrast against her rough voice to create an interesting texture. If not for the extended outro, this would’ve been the strongest track on the album – but when the string instrumental is prolonged for an extra good minute and a half, the once-interesting element quickly becomes repetitive. Luckily, Late Victorian Holocaust is a beauty; a sombre, mourning piano ballad with dark lyrics such as ‘sweet little sleep, my dreams are yours to keep.’ Her croaky tone gives depth to the piece, on a level that’s even more soulful than her rock tracks. When the violin solo kicks in, it gives the track a spine-chilling effect that sounds even more sorrowful than before. At around 3 minutes the track peaks, building up to an intense climax to ensure that the listener stays captivated throughout.
It’s a strong comeback from Faithfull, one that’s reflective of her legendary career. However, we can’t help but feel a little confused over the choice of songs; specifically, the wide variety of genres present throughout the album. While it shows her musical versatility, it also sends the album into a messy, unbalanced state. Further consideration of each track would’ve gone a long way in creating a cleaner, polished album.